It is not always possible to make crosses with wild potato species to introduce new genetic variation. Some desired traits are absent or never found in the total potato population. In that case mutation breeding might bring a solution. With this method plant material is exposed to a mutagenic treatment like X-rays. This will cause a lot of changes in the DNA resulting in other plant properties. In a number of horticultural crops this has lead to interesting improvements like new flower colours. The tetraploid nature of potato however makes the discovery of mutants quite difficult.
Genetic modification is another method to introduce new interesting traits. With this technique small DNA fragments are placed in the chromosome and will lead to the expression of a new property or to a change in the expression of an existing gene. Especially this latter part is interesting because it makes use of original potato DNA. Averis Seeds has been successful in producing potato cultivars with an altered starch composition by genetic modification, an important property in the potato starch industry. The method used by Averis Seeds does not make use of antibiotic selection markers to select for the genetically modified plants.
Public and scientific acceptance of genetic modification is rather controversial at the moment. It is the opinion of Averis Seeds that genetic modification gives great opportunities, which can only be introduced in practical agriculture after comprehensive research on the modified plant and its environment. Only after a positive result of this thorough research, combined with the normal agricultural tests to enter the Variety List, these GMO varieties will be introduced.